"Democracy is built on law, and so it needs lawyers to be the people's mouth, if you like – to translate what people say in the legal language needed to re-establish the democracy. This makes lawyers crucial as defenders of the democracy."
Klemenytna Suchanow is a Polish activist, writer, and researcher. She has a degree in Polish and Spanish studies from the University of Wrocław, and a doctorate in literary studies. An activist for women’s rights, judicial independence and freedom of assembly, she is one of the Founders of the Polish Women’s Strike, a grassroots feminist movement founded in 2016 in opposition to the government’s attach on abortion rights.
From the barricades of the mass protests to protect the rights to abortion for Polish women, Klementyna Suchanow talks of her experiences – both of the campaign, and the severe repression it has provoked: “Before, the judicial system was an abstract concept for most citizens, but today it’s a physical reality you have to confront on the street. The law has become a very tangible thing on your body.” A leader of the movement, Klem compares her activism to that of her father, who went to jail in the 1980s for his involvement in the Solidarity movement: “Will my daughter see me in jail the way I saw my dad?”. And she describes how the fight for an independent judiciary and for legal abortion have become intertwined, with mass meetings, led by lawyers, to imagine a post-authoritarian country. Still, while she understands the centrality of legal activism, she sees its limits too, as a campaigner: “It's good to know about the law, but it's better to know the emotions of the people and what frustrates them, to listen to them. When people go to the streets, they don't talk about legal issues. They talk about emotions, why they are here, and they have a special reason to be there.”